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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

ROB McCULLOUCH TELLS HIS TALE OF NEGATIVE APPROACH...GATHER 'ROUND... Original Negative Approach guitarist Rob McCullouch gives us the skinny on the rise and fall of the OG NA..



Prior to joining Negative Approach, I was in bands with Graham(McCulloch, Robs’ younger brother and future NA bass player) Chris (Moore, future NA drummer) and Bud Bucar, who was the drummer for the Allied. We’d change our name every time we played out. We’d play in peoples’ backyards and our high school Battle of the Bands. The jocks would show up and try to beat us up for being Punk Rockers. At the battle of the bands, we played under the name Dead Reagans. We played half covers and half originals.

I didn’t know any of the other guys who were starting Negative Approach. I was just hanging out at Endless Summer skate park in Rosedale, Michigan and a friend of theirs told them about me. They came up to the skate park. They just wanted to see if I wanted to jam at Johns’ house in the basement. That was towards the end of the summer of ‘81. They already had three or four songs when I went down to Johns’ basement and I had the music for the song ‘Negative Approach’. I think we had four or five songs by the end of the night.

Earlier that summer, we went over to Coronation Tavern in Windsor Ontario to see Minor Threat. The one thing that sticks out about it was the D.C crew beat up our original drummer Zuheir that night. He was acting like a drunk fool and the DC crew didn’t tolerate drunk fools! He was stage diving like he was diving into a swimming pool and they just didn’t like his goofiness.
Seeing Minor Threat that night was a total revelation. The fact that those guys were all so young really meant something to us. Black Flag always seemed like grown-ups and older than us and compared to anything we knew, they were like a ‘big’ band to us. But here were a bunch of guys the same age as us that were selling their records out of the trunk of their car. We all left there saying ‘We could do this’. That show totally started the whole thing for us.

You know, it’s really cool that NA get’s all this attention on the internet and all that, but I’ve always felt like the Necros don’t get the recognition they deserve. If there were no Necros, there would be no Negative Approach and then there’s no Detroit scene at all. They couldn’t have been more supportive to us when we didn’t know anything. The essential thing for us from day one was to have a band good enough to open for the Necros. That was our goal.

The first show we did was in the fall of 1981. We played in Todd Swallas’ basement. We were really intimidated by the Necros and we wanted to impress them and we sucked so bad! Johns’ voice sounded like this high pitched wail. It sounded nothing like what it sounded like in practice. I guess he was really amped up to play maybe. I remember being real embarrassed afterwards. I went skating with Todd after our set and he was super encouraging. He made me want to try again.

A month after that we opened for the Necros at a club called Nunzios. That was the first time I ever did a sound check or stood on a proper stage and played. Those Detroit people were still into the 70’s drugs and drinking scene and they didn’t get into us at all. In fact, I’d say they hated it! The Necros asked us to play with them in Chicago in the winter of 1981, but Zuheir and Pete quit the day of the show. That’s when I asked Chris and Graham, who were in Youth Patrol at the time, to join us.

Our original bass player Pete Zelewski was getting more into the Oi! sound; just the music, not the racist element that came along with that stuff. Zuheir wasn’t that into the band. We’d always have to chase him down to practice.

As far as any other bands go…we saw the Fix a few times up in Lansing. They were really cool guys, but they were just older guys and there was a definite cultural difference there. A different vibe all around.

Bored Youth were fantastic. We first saw them at this real nasty pick up joint in the suburbs of Detroit. We hung out with them after their set and said ‘You should come play at this place we started having shows at, The Freezer Theatre’.


I never thought it was too scary to hang out in the Cass Corridor because there was always twenty of us walking in a pack. We definitely looked intimidating. The Necros looked like they’d kill you with the big heavy chains they wore around their waist. If there was ever any trouble, Todd and Corey were the first people jumping out of a car to beat the hell out of someone.
In the summer of ’82, we went on the ‘Process of Elimination’ tour with the Necros and the Meatmen. We all piled in Corey’s parents motor home, except Tesco who drove his little red Toyota. We whipped a lot of crap onto his car from the motor home. We had these guys as our roadies that we called the Sleestacks after the guys from ‘Land of the Lost’. Everyone always thought they were the band since they looked more like the band sounded than us. They were these huge skinhead guys. They had a telephone repair van that had grills inside. That was the equipment van. I think the toilet was stopped up on the motor home so everyone would pee out the window while trying to hit Tescos’ car. Playing in New York was amazing. We stayed with Doyle from the Misfits. We stayed there for a few days before we headed over to Boston and then to D.C. I don’t really recall any problems with the New York. It was so early that there was no rivalry. You were just happy there was someone else from a different place into the same thing you were and it made the numbers a little bit larger at the clubs.

What do I remember about recording the EP? We went down to Maumee and Corey had just set up a recording studio in his parents’ basement. He was still trying to figure out how to record things. He had a quarter pipe in the driveway, so we just skated and waited around to do the back-up vocals and all that.
At one point, John and Larissa (Strickland, vocalist for L-Seven and guitarist for Laughing Hyenas) moved into this apartment behind the Fox theatre and us and L-Seven were using the Clubhouse (DIY show space) for practicing and we were paying some money for rent. We would also practice in the vacant apartment above the Clubhouse. That’s where we recorded that one demo with Dave Rice.

One day at practice, Chris sprang it on us that he was quitting. If Chris was out, I figured I was out. I was leaning more towards the songs he was writing. I remember saying ‘Let’s talk to Corey and see if he wants to put out an album before we break up’.

There was a lot more tension in the band at the time. When John was living at his Moms house he was a completely different person to what he became when he moved down to the Cass and moved in with Larissa. It’s not like any of us were doing anything remotely constructive with our lives, but we weren’t just sitting around in an apartment all day drinking and watching TV. We were all leading very separate lives at this point. Also, I thought we were playing out too much. I remember talking to John saying, ‘We shouldn’t be playing so many shows. People are going to get mad at us taking all the shows and people are going to get bored of us’.

When we went in to record the ‘Tied Down’ record, I was pretty oblivious to everything because I was still a teenager and only concerned with this six inch area in front of my face. I didn’t really think about it until I got there. Graham was still in the band techincally, so John and Larissa were pro-Graham and very short with Chris and I. What was really awkward was we couldn’t get a good guitar sound the first day, so I had to come back the next day and record my guitar tracks. Neither Chris or Graham showed up, so it was just me, John, Larissa and Corey and the engineer there; real awkward.Larissa and John were an item at this point and she knew the band was pretty much all John focused on. I think she was just mad at us for taking that away from them.

At this point, it really felt like the scene was fragmenting. The Necros were getting more rock oriented. You had the skinhead factions showing up and that was becoming more prevelant. It didn’t have that tight feeling it once had. You miss a few shows where before, you wouldn’t miss them for your life. Then you miss one, you miss two and after that you just lose track of what’s going on. Chris and I moved on and formed Crossed Wire and I really don’t know what happened to the scene after that.









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